Charles James Lever.

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word " Guajaqualla," were the only ones I could catch ; but
my mind retained both for many a day after.

At last he crushed the papers hurriedly together, and
closed the pocket-book : but in doing so, a single slip of paper
fell to the ground. I leaned over, and caught it ; and by the
light of the fire I read the following lines, which were in
print, and apparently cut from the column of a newspaper :



"MEANS ANL> MEDITATIONS." 127



" ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD.

" Any one will be entitled to the above reward who may
detect, or give such information as may lead to the detection,
of Menelaus Crick, a negro slave, aged forty-eight ; he stands
six feet two high ; broad chest and shoulders, the riglii
higher than the left ; has marks of the lash on back, and two
cutlass scars on the face ; the great toe of the left foot is
wanting, and he walks occasionally with difficulty, from a
gunshot wound in the spine.

" As he is a fellow of resolute character, and great strength,
all persons are hereby warned not to attempt his capture,
save in sufficient numbers. He was last seen at San Luis,
and is supposed to have gone in the direction of Guajaqualla,
where it is said he worked once as a gold-washer

"Address. The Office of the Picayune Letter T. G
B . New Orleans."

There were a few words in Spanish scrawled on the back.

" Here is the man ! " said I, looking down on the sleeping
figure ; " who would have thought a thousand dollars could
be made of him ? " Not, indeed, that I speculated on such an
unholy gain. No, the very offer enlisted my sympathies in
favour of the poor wretch ; besides, how many years ago must
that advertisement have appeared ; he was forty-eight at that
time, and now his age might be nigh eighty. My curiosity
became intense to see the contents of the pocket-book, from
which I could fancy abundant materials to eke out the negro's
history. I am afraid that nothing but the terror of discovery
prevented my stealing it. I even planned how it might be
done without awaking him ; but the long bright knife which
glistened in the strap of his blanket admonished me to pru-
dence, and I abstained.

My fire waxed fainter as the dawn drew nigh, and as I was
afraid of sleep coming over me, I stepped noiselessly from the
hut, and gained the open air. My first occupation was to
hoist the signal ; and as it rose into the air, I watched its
massive folds unfurling, with a throb of hope that gave me
new courage. The standard was very lofty, and stood upon a
mound of earth ; and as the flag itself was large, I had every
reason to think it could not escape notice. Scarcely, indeed,
had I made fast the halyard, than I beheld on the very verge
of the horizon what seemed to be a vessel. The moment of
sunrise, like that of sunset, is peculiarly favourable to distinct
vision, and as the pink line of dawn sheeted over the sea, the



128 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CBEGAN.

dark object stood out clear and sharp ; but the next moment
the glare of brighter day covered sky and water together, and
I could no longer see the ship.

In my anxiety to try and catch sight of it from another
spot, I hastened down to the shore ; but already a rosy tint
was spread over the wide sea, and nothing was discernible
except the heaving waves and the streaked sky above
them.

I sat upon a rock straining my eyes, but to no purpose ;
and at last the cold raw air pierced through me, and I re-
membered that I had left my jacket in the hut. But for this,
indeed, I would not have returned to it, for, without absolute
fear of the negro, his repulsive features, and scowling look,
made his companionship far from pleasurable. His suspicion
of me, too, might have led him to some act of violence ; and
therefore I determined, if I were even to seek shelter in the
Refuge-house at the other end of the island, I would not go
back to this one.

It was some time before I could summon courage to venture
back again ; and even when I had reached the door, it was
not without a struggle with myself that I dared to enter.
The daylight was now streaming in, across the long and
dreary chamber, and, encouraged by this, I stepped across the
threshold. My first glance was towards the stove, where I
had left him lying asleep. The fire had burned out, and the
negro was gone ! With cautious steps, and many a prying
glance around, I ventured forward, my heart thumping with
a fear I cannot explain, since his very presence had not
caused such terror ; but nowhere was he to be found not a
trace of him remained. Indeed, were it not for the scrap of
printed paper, which I had carefully preserved, I should have
believed the whole events of the night to be the mere fancies
of a dream.

Twice was I obliged to take it from my pocket and read it
over, to assure myself that I was not pursuing some halluci-
nation of sleep ; and if I felt convinced that the events were
real, and had actually happened, I will frankly own that the
reality inspired me with a sense of fear which no memory of
a mere vision could have inspired.

Daylight is a bold companion, however, and where night
would make the heart beat fast, and the cheek pale, the sun
will give a strong pulse and a ruddy face. This I could not
help feeling, as I acknowledged to myself that had it been yet
dark, I had rather have perished with cold than sought for
my jacket within the hut.



" MEANS AND MEDITATIONS." 129

At last, grown bolder, I had even courage to seek for the
negro on every side. I examined the berths along the walls ;
I searched the recesses beside the biscuit-casks ; I removed
planks and turned over sails, but without success. The
difficulty with which he moved made this seem doubly strange,
and satisfied me that his place of concealment could not be
far off; nay, possibly, at that very moment he might be
actually watching me, and waiting for a favourable instant to
pounce upon me. This dread increased as my search con-
tinued to be fruitless ; so that I abandoned the pursuit, assured
that I had done everything that could have been asked either
of my courage or humanity, nor was I sorry to assure myself
that I had done enough.

My interest in the subject was soon superseded by one
nearer to my heart ; for as I left the hut I beheld, about four
miles off, a large three-masted vessel bearing up the gulf, with
all her canvas spread. Forgetting the distance, and every-
thing save my longing to be free, I ascended a little eminence,
and shouted with all my might, waving my handkerchief back
and forward above my head. I cannot describe the transport
of delight I felt, at perceiving that a flag was hoisted to the
main peak, and soon after lowered a recognition of the
signal which floated above me. I even cried aloud with joy,
and then, in the eagerness of my ecstasy, I set off along the
shore, seeking out the best place for a boat to run in.

Never did a ship appear so glorious an object to my eyes ;
her spars seemed more taper, her sails more snowy, her bear-
ing prouder, than ever a vessel owned before ; and when at
length I could distinguish the figures of men in the rigging,
my heart actually leaped to my mouth with delight.

At last she backed her topsail, and now I saw shooting out
from beneath her tall sides a light pinnace, that skimmed the
water like a sea-bird. As if they saw me, they headed exactly
towards where I stood, and ran the craft into a little bay just
at my feet. A crew of four sailors and coxswain now jumped
ashore, and advanced towards me.

" Are there many of you ? " said the coxswain, gruffly, and
as though nothing were a commoner occurrence in life than to
rescue a poor forlorn fellow-creature from an uninhabited rock.

"I am alone, sir," said I, almost bursting into tears, for
mingled joy and disappointment ; for I was, I own it, dis-
appointed at the want of sympathy for my lone condition.

" What ship did you belong to, boy ? " asked he, as shortly
as before.

" A yacht, sir the Firefly"

K:



130 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CREGAN

" Ah, that's it ; so they shoved you ashore here. That's
\vhat comes of sailing with gentlemen, as they calls 'em."

" No, sir ; we landed a few of us during a calm "

" Ay, ay," he broke in, " I know all that the old story ;
you landed to shoot rabbits, and somehow you got separated
from the others ; the wind sprung up meantime the yacht
fired a gun to come off eh, isn't that it ! Come, my lad, no
gammon with me. You're some infernal young scamp that
was ' had up ' for punishment, and they either put you ashore
here for the rats, or you jumped overboard yourself, and
floated hither on a spare hen-coop. But never mind we'll
give you a run to Quebec ; jump in."

I followed the order with alacrity, and soon found myself
on board the Hampden transport, which was conveying the
th Regiment of Foot to Canada.

" No one but this here boy, sir," said the coxswain ; shoving
me before him towards the skipper, who, amidst a crowd of
officers in undress, sat smoking on the after-deck.

A very significant grunt seemed to imply that the vessel's
way was lost for very slight cause.

" He says as how he belonged to a yacht, sir," resumed the
coxswain.

"Whose yacht, boy? " asked one of the officers.

" Sir Dudley Broughton's, sir ; the Firefly " said I.

" Eroughton ! Broughton ! " said an old shrewd-looking
man, in a foraging-cap ; " don'fc you know all about him ? but,
to be sure, he was before your day ;" and then changing his
discourse to French, with which language, thanks to my kind
old friend Father Rush, I was sufficiently acquainted to
understand what was said he added, " Sir Dudley was in
the Life Guards, once ; his wife eloped with a Russian or a
Polish Count I forget which and he became deranged in
consequence. Were you long with Sir Dudley, boy ? " asked
he, addressing me in English.

" Not quite two months, sir."

"Not a bad spell with such a master!" resumed he, in
French; "if the stories they tell of him be true. How did
you happen to be left on Anticosti ? "

" No use in asking, captain ! " broke in the skipper. " You
never get a word of truth from chaps like that ; go for'arcl,
boy. '

And with this brief direction I was dismissed. All my
fancied heroism all my anticipated glory vanishing at
once ; the only thought my privations excited, being that I
was a young scamp who, if he told truth, would confess that



"MEANS AND MEDITATIONS." 131

all his sufferings and misfortunes had been but too well
merited.

This was another lesson to me in life, and one which
perhaps I could not have acquired more thoroughly than by
a few days on Anticosti.



CHAPTER XII.

"A GLIMPSE OF ANOTHER OPENING IN LIFE.'

ALTHOUGH only a few hundred miles from Quebec, our voyage
still continued for several days ; the Hampden, like all trans-
port-ships, was only " great in a calm," and the Gulf-stream
being powerful enough to retard far better sailers.

To those who, like myself, were not pressed for time, or
had no very pleasing vista opening to them on shore, the
voyage was far from disagreeable. As the channel narrowed,
the tall mountains of Vermont came into view, and gradually
the villages on the shore could be detected small, dark
clusters, in the midst of what appeared interminable pine
forests. Here and there less pleasant sights presented them-
selves, in the shape of dismasted hulks, being the remains of
vessels which had got fastened in the ice of the early " fall,"
and were deserted by the crews.

On the whole it was novelty, and novelty alone, lent any
charm to the picture ; for the shores of the Gulf, until you
come within two days' journey of Quebec, are sadly dis-
couraging and dreary. The Log-house is itself a mournful
object ; and when seen standing alone in some small clearing,
with blackened stumps studding the space, through which
two or three figures are seen to move, is inexpressibly sad-
looking and solitar} 7 .

Now and then we would pass some little town, with a
humble imitation of a harbour for shipping, and a quay ; and
in the midst a standard, with a flag, would denote that some
Government official resided there, the reward, doubtless, of
some gallant deed, some bold achievement afloat ; for I heard
that they were chiefly lieutenants in the navy, who, having

K 2



132 THE CONFESSIONS OP CON

more intimacy with French grape and canister than with
" First Lords," were fain to spend the remnant of their days
in these gloomiest of exiles.

The absence of all signs of life and movement in the
picture, cannot fail to depress the spectator. No team of
oxen draws the loaded waggon along ; not a plough is seen.
There are no gatherings of people in the open places of the
towns ; no cattle can be descried on the hills. The settle-
ments appear like the chance resting-places of men travelling
through the dark forests, and not their homes for life. At
times a single figure would be seen on some high cliff above
the sea, standing motionless, and, to all seeming, watching
the ship. I cannot say how deeply such a sight always
affected me ; and I could not help fancying him some lone
emigrant, following with beating heart the track he was
never again to travel.

Apparently, these things made a deeper impression on me
than upon most others on board. As for the soldiers, they
were occupied with getting their arms and equipments in
order, to make a respectable appearance on landing. It was
one eternal scene of soap and pipeclay all day long ; and
creatures barely able to crawl, from sea-sickness and debility,
were obliged to scour and polish away, as if the glory of
England depended upon the show the gallant th would
make, the day we should set foot on shore. The skipper, too,
was bent on making an equally imposing show to the lands-
men ; his weather topmasts were stowed away, and in their
place were hoisted some light and taper spars, not exactly in
accordance with the lubberly hull beneath. Pitch and white
paint were in great requisition too ; and every day saw some
half-dozen of the crew suspended over the side, either scraping
or painting for the very life. Many a shirt dangled from the
boom and more than one low-crowned hat received a fresh
coat of glistening varnish : all were intent on the approaching
landing, even to the group of lounging officers on the poop,
who had begun to reduce their beards and whiskers to a
more *' regulation" standard, and who usually passed the morn-
ing inspecting epaulettes and sword-knots, chakos, gorgets,
and such like, with the importance of men who felt what
havoc among the fair Canadians they were soon about to
inflict.

My services were in request among this section of the
passengers, since I had become an expert hand at cleaning
arms and equipments with Sir Dudley; besides that, not
wearing his Majesty's cloth, the officers were at liberty to



"A GLIMPSE OF ANOTHEE OPENING IN LIFE." 133

talk to me with a freedom they could not have used with
their men. They were all more or less curious to hear about
Sir Dudley, of whom, without transgressing Halkett's
caution, I was able to relate some amusing particulars. As
my hearers invariably made their comments on my narratives
in French, I was often amused to hear them record their
opinions of myself, expressed with perfect candour in my
own presence. The senior officer was a Captain Pike, an
old, keen-eyed, pock-marked man, with a nose as thin as a
sheet of parchment. He seemed to read me like a book ; at
least, so far as I knew, his opinions perfectly divined my
true character.

"Our friend Con," he would say, "is an uncommonly
shrewd varlet, but he is only telling us some of the truth ; he
sees that he is entertaining enough, and won't produce
'Lafitte,' so long as we enjoy his ' Ordinaire.' "

" Now what will become of such a fellow as that ? " asked
another ; " heaven knows ! such rascals turn out consummate
scoundrels, or rise to positions of eminence. Never was
there a more complete lottery than the life of a young rogue
like that."

" I can't fancy," drawled out a young subaltern, "how an
ignorant cur, without education, manners, and means, can
ever rise to anything."

"Who can say whether he has not all these?" said the
captain, quietly. " Trust me, Carrington, you'd cut a much
poorer figure in his place, than would he in yours."

The ensign gave a haughty laugh, and the captain resumed :
" I said, it were not impossible that he had each of the three
requisites you spoke of, and I repeat it. He may, without
possessing learning, have picked up that kind of rudimentary
knowledge, that keenness and zeal improve on every day ;
and as for tact and address such fellows possess both as a
birthright. I have a plan in my head for the youngster ;
but you must all pledge yourselves to secrecy, or I'll not
venture upon it."

Here a very general chorus of promises and " on honours "
broke forth: after the subsidence of which, Captain Pike
continued, still, however, in French ; and although being far
from a proficient in that tongue, I was able to follow the
tenor of his discourse, and divine its meaning, particularly
as, from time to time, some of the listeners would propound
a question or two in English, by the aid of which I invariably
contrived to keep up with the " argument."

" You know, lads," said the captain, " that our old friend,



134 THE CONFESSIONS OF CON CHEGAN.

Mrs. Davis, who keeps the boarding-house in the Upper
Town, has been always worrying us to bring her out what
she calls a first-rate man-servant from England ; by which
she means, a creature capable of subsisting on quarter rations,
and who, too far from home to turn restive, must put up with
any wages. The very fact that he came out special she well
knows, will be a puff for the ' Establishment ' among the
Canadian Members of Parliament, and the small fry of
officials who dine at the house ; and as to qualifications, who
will dare question the ' London footman ' ? "

"Pooh, pooh!" broke in Carrington; "that fellow don't
look like a London footman."

" "Who says he does ? " retorted the captain ; " who ever
said brass buttons and blue beads were gold and turquoise?
but they pass for the same in villages not fifty miles from
where we are sailing. Mother Davis was wife of a skipper
in the timber trade, who died harbour-master here ; she is
not a very likely person to be critical about a butler or foot-
man's accomplishments."

" By Jove ! " cried another, " Pike is all right ! go on with
your plan."

" My plan is this : we'll dress up our friend Con, here,
give him a few lessons about waiting at table, delivering a
message, and so forth, furnish him with a jolly set of
characters, and start him on the road of life with Mother
Davis."

A merry roar of approving laughter broke forth from the
party, at this brief summary of Captain Pike's intentions ;
and indeed, it was not without great difficulty I avoided
joining in it.

" He looks so devilish young ! " said Carrington; " he can't
be fifteen."

"Possibly not fourteen," said Pike ; "but we'll shave his
head, and give him a wig. I'll answer for the ' make up ; '
and as I have bad some experience of private theatricals,
rely on't he'll pass muster."

" How will you dress him, Pike ? "

" In livery, a full suit of snuff-brown, lined with yellow ;
I'll devote a large cloak I have to the purpose, and we'll set
the tailor at work to-day."

" Is he to have shorts ? "

" Of course ; some of you must ' stand ' silk stockings for
him, for we shall have to turn him out with a good kit."

A. very generous burst of promises here broke in, about
shirts, vests, cravats, gloves, and other wearables, which, I



"A GLIMPSE OF ANOTHER OPENING IN LIFE." 135

own it, gave the whole contrivance a far brighter colouring
in my eyes, than when it offered to be a mere lark.

" Will the rogue consent, think you ? " asked Carrington.

" Will he prefer a bed, and a dinner, to nothing to eat, and
a siesta under the planks on the quays of Quebec ? " asked
Pike, contemptuously. " Look at the fellow ! watch his keen
eyes and his humorous mouth when he's speaking to you,
and say if he wouldn't do the thing for the fun of it? Not
but a right clever chap like him will see something besides a
joke in the whole contrivance."

" I fore.sce he'll break down at the first go off," said Car-
riugton ; who, through all the controversy, seemed impressed
with the very humblest opinion of my merits,

" I forsee exactly the reverse," said Pike. "I've seldom
met a more acute youngster, nor one readier to take up your
meaning ; and if the varlet doesn't get spoilt by education,
but simply follows out the bent of his own shrewd intelli-
gence, he'll do well yet."

" You rate him more highly than I do," said Carrington
again.

" Not impossible either ; we take our soundings with very
dissimilar lead-lines," said Pike, scoffingly. " My opinion is
formed by hearing the boy's own observations about character
and life, when he was speaking of Broughton ; but if you
were ten times as right about him, and I twice as many times
in the wrong, he'll do for what I intend him."

The others expressed their full concurrence in the captain's
view of the matter voted me a phoenix of all young vaga-
bonds, and their brother- officer Carrington a down-right ass,
both being my own private sentiments to the letter.

And now for an honest avowal ! It was the flattery of
my natural acuteness the captain's panegyric on my aptitude
and smartness that won me over to a concurrence in the
scheme ; for, at heart, I neither liked the notion of " service,"
nor the prospect of the abstemious living he had so pointedly
alluded to. Still, to justify the favourable impression he had
conceived of me, and also with some half hope that I should
see " life " the ruling passion of my mind under a new
aspect, I resolved to accept the proposition so soon as
it should be made to me : nor had I long to wait that
moment.

" Con, my lad," said the captain, " you may leave that belt
there ; come aft here, I want to speak to you. What are
your plans when you reach Quebec ? Do you mean to look
after your old master, Sir Dudley, again?"



136 THE CONFESSIONS OP CON CBEOAN.

" No, sir : I have had enough of salt water for a time I'll
keep my feet on dry land now."

" But what line of life do you propose to follow ? "

I hesitated for the answer and was silent.

" I mean," resumed he, " is it your intention to become a
farm-servant with some of the emigrant families, or will you
seek for employment in the town ? "

" Or would you like to enlist, my lad?" broke in another.

" No, thank you, sir ; promotion is slow from the ranks,
and I've a notion one ought to move ' up/ as they move ' on,'
in life."

" Listen to the varlet now," said Pike, in French ; " the
fellow's as cool with us as if we were exactly his equals, and
no more. I'll tell you what it is, lads," added he, seriously,
" when such rogues journey the road of life singly, they raise
themselves to station and eminence ; but when they herd
together in masses, these are the fellows who pull others
down, and effect the most disastrous social revolutions. So
you'll not be a soldier, Con ? " added he, resuming tho
vernacular ; " well, what are your ideas as to the civil
service ? "

" Anything to begin with, sir."

" Quite right, lad well said ; a fair start is all you ask ? "

"Why, sir, I carry no weight, either in the shape of goods
or character ; and if a light equipment gives speed, I've a
chance to be placed well."

The captain gave a side-glance at the others, as though to
Bay, " Was I correct in my opinion of this fellow ? " and then
went on, " I have a thought in my head for you, Con :
there is a lady of my acquaintance at Quebec wants a servant :
new if you could pick up some notion of the duties, I've no
doubt you'd learn the remainder rapidly."

" I used to wait on Sir Dudley, sir, and am therefore not
entirely ignorant."

" Very true ; and as these gentlemen and myself will put
you into training while the voyage lasts, I hope you'll do us
credit in the end."

" Much will depend on my mistress, sir," said I, deter-
mining to profit by what I had overheard, but yet not use tho
knowledge rashly or unadvisedly. " Should she not be very
exacting and very particular, but have a little patience with
me, accepting zeal for skill, I've no doubt, sir, I'll not dis-
credit your recommendation."

" That's the very point I'm coming to, Con," said the
captain, lowering his voice to a most confidential tone.



*' A GLIMPSE OF ANOTHER OPENING IN LIFE." 137

true state of the case is this ; " and here he entered upon



Online LibraryCharles James Lever[Charles Lever's novels (Volume 5) → online text (page 14 of 50)